1991 Vermont Gathering Report
THE FINAL REPORT Continued.
H. MEDIA RELATIONS
The 1991 National Rainbow Family Gathering was a media event. During the
first week in June the Forest prepared a general news story concerning the
gathering, but then strategized to hold release of the story until the third
week in June in the hopes of reducing attention and crowd size. However,
following the June 5 meeting between Forest Supervisor Hoffman and Governor
Snelling, the Burlington Free Press called the Forest PAO to verify a lead
that the Rainbows were coming to Vermont. The following day the Free Press
ran a front page story and the Forest sent its press release to other area
Coverage built continually throughout June with frequent stories in the
Burlington Free Press and the Rutland Herald (two widely read regional
papers) and periodic stories in other local papers. Media attention peaked
and remained intense during the week of July 4th. Regional and local papers
carried stories every or every-other day. Radio and television coverage was
extensive during this period. National coverage was evident this week with
stories coining off the wire service or through on-site visits and
interviews. The Boston Globe, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and TIME
magazine featured the Rainbow Gathering on or around July 4th. Local and
regional media continued to cover the gathering through the clean-up phases.
(See Appendix G for a compilation of news clippings.) Several free lance
writers and photographers also visited the event, pursuing stories for
Media coverage of the event was fair and accurate. The national media
tended to focus on the Rainbows and the event itself, while local reporters
routinely sought interviews with administering agency officials. Typically
the agencies were shown in 8 good light. Some area residents as well as IC
team members felt the media portrayed the Rainbows too favorably, failing to
report the negative side of "A" camp, drug use, flag burning and general
nuisance incidents in town. The media did, however, report on the Rainbow
Family's early impact on Vermont social service organizations, as well as
the later drug arrests and river contamination problems associated with the
gathering. Overall, media coverage was well-rounded and complete.
Through all phases of the gathering, Forest and IC policy was to provide
information and assistance to media representatives upon request. No effort
was made to attract attention or publicize the event. The media conducted
their business independently, unescorted by Forest Service personnel.
Visiting reporters were urged to stop at the ICP information center before
entering the gathering site so that PAO's could answer questions and provide
accurate status updates. Reporters visiting the information center were
offered a "press pass" which entitled them to temporary (day use only)
parking privileges close to the site. This was a mutually beneficial
arrangement: a valuable time and energy saver for the media and a drawing
card for the lnfo Center.
Media relations throughout the gathering were very good. Existing working
relationships were strengthened and many new ones built. In general, the
cooperating agencies gained a lot of good press coverage and the Green
Mountain NF gained a lot in terms of improving its identity and image
locally and statewide.
The Rainbow Family is extremely conscious and concerned about their public
image, especially as it is portrayed in the news media. Their desire to
avoid any and all negative press coverage provides a strong incentive for
the Family to perform as required and/or to change unacceptable behavior.
By maintaining honest and complete media coverage of the event the Forest
Service can exert subtle pressure on Rainbow gatherers to comply with agency
rules, regulations and expectations.
I. LAW ENFORCEMENT
The Addison County Sheriff's Department and the USDA Forest Service were
lead agencies in the cooperative law enforcement effort that also involved
the Caledonia, Orange, Rutland, Washington, Windham and Windsor County
Sheriff's departments; the US Border Patrol; US Marshall Services and the
Vermont State Police. A full report of the law enforcement operations
connected with the 1991 Rainbow Family Gathering has been prepared under
separate cover. The following is an overview of the law enforcement
organization, its activities and accomplishments.
ORGANIZATION AND OBJECTIVES
During the 1991 Rainbow Family Gathering law enforcement personnel acted in
a support role to ensure the health and safety of all gathering
participants, as well as visitors and residents in the gathering's area.
Their activities were guided by an operating plan prepared jointly by the
Forest Service and the Addison County Sheriff's Department. Specifically,
law enforcement objectives were to 1) maintain a presence of legal authority
within the gathering's vicinity; 2) maintain 24-hour patrols around the
perimeter of the gathering and rigorously enforce all federal. state and
local laws, regulations and ordinances; and 3) respond to evidence of
illegal or inappropriate activity within the gathering.
Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies formed an interagency
organization to meet the objectives. Between June 27 and July 8 the Forest
Service provided 16 special agents/law enforcement officers detailed from
nine, Region q national forests. Ten of these officers were matched with 10
deputies from participating sheriff's departments forming two-person
squads. The six remaining Forest Service officers also formed two-person
squads. The 13 squads were divided into two units, each unit working 12
hour overlapping shifts, giving 24-hour law enforcement coverage. Four
experienced dispatchers operated the ICP communications network 24 hours a
day, working in two-person teams; 12 hour shifts each. The Vermont State
Police (VSP) provided four, two-man patrols from June 28 to July 8. These
crews were responsible for patrol and interdiction on Vermont state highways
and on Forest Service roads not leading to the gathering. They were also on
call to assist in other law enforcement activity as needed. The VSP staffed
a mobile command unit at the ICP to facilitate communication and
coordination. Also during this time period, officers from the US Border
Patrol, the US Marshall Services and other agencies assisted law enforcement
efforts on an as-needed basis. Law enforcement operations at this time
focused on perimeter activities (details discussed below). Entrance into
the gathering was as requested or required.
On July 8 the law enforcement organization was downscaled due to reduced
need. Four, two-person Forest Service/county deputy squads continued
24-hour patrols. two squads working each 12-hour shift. Dispatch continued
24-hour coverage with one dispatcher per 12-hour shift. The VSP disbanded
their operations at the ICP, but remained on call at the Bethel barracks.
Beginning July 8, law enforcement objectives changed and activities expanded
with armed law enforcement officers entering the gathering site regularly.
The objectives of this action were to 1) reinforce the message that the
gathering was officially over and only those involved with clean-up were
expected/permitted to remain on site; 2) consolidate the remaining visitors
in the main circle area; 3) assist in identifying resource rehabilitation
needs; and 4) collect on-site evidence of illegal activities that may have
occurred during the gathering tie drug manufacturing, satanic sacrifice,
child abduction/abuse). When the armed LEO's first appeared within the
gathering it raised some question, but they were generally well received.
No feelings of ill will or confrontations were reported. Their presence
seemed to hasten visitor exit as well as site clean-up. It also gave the
LEO's an opportunity to get to know Family members and gain better
understanding and insight into group.
SUMMARY OF ACTIVITIES
PERIMETER PATROLS - Perimeter patrols between June 27 and July 8 focused on
protecting local residents and their property. facilitating traffic flows
and maintaining safety on all state and local roads and responding to
visitors' needs or calls for help. Law enforcement officers also kept a
persistent presence at the access points into the gathering ("front" and
"back" gates) to reinforce in everyone's mind that the responsible law
enforcement agencies were present to deter and if necessary prosecute
inappropriate or illegal behavior.
CAR TOWING - To maintain adequate traffic flow and access for emergency and
administrative vehicles it became necessary to prohibit parking on Forest
Road 55 leading to back gate and Bus Village, and Forest Road 39 leading to
front gate. The roads were so posted beginning June 26, however illegal
parking remained a problem. The Forest Service issued a limited number of
parking permits to the Rainbow Family allowing them to park supply and
shuttle vehicles on FR 55. All other vehicles in violation of the no
parking regulation were towed at the owners' expense.
SAFETY CHECK - The Addison County Sheriff's Department, assisted by the US
Border Patrol, conducted a safety check along State Route 125 east of
Middlebury on July 2. Law enforcement officers stopped 468 vehicles
resulting in 82 warnings for defective equipment. Officers involved with
the safety check estimated that 70X of those stopped were traveling to or
associated with the gathering.
"A" CAMP - Law enforcement officers kept a periodic presence at or around
"A" camp which was located near back gate. As in years past, "A"" camp was a
persistent concern to both the Rainbow Family and the Forest Service.
Officials videotaped portions of this area to document conditions within the
camp including environmental impacts. Most encounters between LEO's and "A"
camp residents resulted in some amount of verbal abuse or harassment. No
serious or physical confrontations occurred, owing largely to the calm, tact
and diplomacy of the LEO's on duty. (Refer to "A" Camp on page 21 for
ASSAULT - On July 2 law enforcement officials were requested to enter the
gathering to investigate a reported assault of a female attendee by a male
attendee. The investigation resulted in the arrest of the latter.
DEATH - On June 29 the Rainbow Family reported the death of an ii-week old
infant to law enforcement officials. The local rescue squad was called to
the scene. Forest Service, Sheriff's Department and Vermont State Police
personnel worked jointly on the investigation and recovery of the victim.
The cause of death, pending confirmation by the Chief Medical Examiner's
investigation and final report, was Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
DRUG ARRESTS - During the course of the gathering law enforcement officers
made several drug arrests. Two male. non-Vermont residents were arrested
for possessing and selling significant quantities of LSD. Other arrests and
drug seizures were for minor quantities of drugs.
AIR CLOSURE - At the Rainbow Family's request the Forest Service secured an
FAA air closure covering a three mile radius around the gathering site for
July 4. Air traffic over the gathering often intensifies, especially on
July 4, with curiosity seekers trying to get a glimpse of Rainbow
activities. This is objectionable to the Family and can become a safety
hazard. Although air traffic in this area is typically light, honoring the
request was a simple task that demonstrated the agency's willingness to
cooperate. There was one violation of the air closure by a local pilot.
A summary of arrests made in connection with the 1991 Rainbow gathering is
found in Appendix J.
Law enforcement officers are aware of other criminal activities within the
gathering: several cases of unreported sexual misconduct, including one
unsubstantiated rape, as well as unresolved cases of missing children
Often crimes are reported to the Rainbow's Shanti Sena group who hand
situations internally; no information being forwarded to Legal author
Other crimes go completely unreported. One can only assume that a great
many more crimes occur within the gathering than are reported or than
ever be substantiated.
J. FINANCIAL SUMMARY
The following is an estimate, as of October 16, 1991, of what the Green
Mountain National Forest expended to administer the 1991 National Rainbow
|TABLE OF EXPENDITURES|
| SALARIES AND BENEFITS||$166,076.|
County Sheriff's Departments (CLE)
Vermont State Police
|TRAVEL, LODGING, MEALS AND INCIDENTALS||$50,729.|
| INCIDENT COMMAND POST|
(Rental of Rochester High School)
|OTHER RENTS AND COMMUNICATIONS|
(Includes telephone, communications systems and photocopier rental)
|EQUIPMENT RENTAL |
(Includes equipment rental to repair roads)
(Includes camera equipment and replacement of stolen video equipment)
| SUPPLIES AND MATERIALS|
(Includes batteries, lumber, surveying stakes, and gravel for road restoration)
(Includes film processing, excavation work, installation/removal of phones, and radio reprogramming and repair)
| PRINTING SERVICES ||$1,333.|
II. THE RAINBOW FAMILY AND THE 1991 GATHERING
A. SITE SELECTION
On the last day of each year's gathering the Rainbow Family holds a vision
council at which they select a national forest for the succeeding year's
event. On July 7, 1990, the Superior National Forest, the Rainbow Family
selected the New England biosphere for the site of their 1991 national
In September of 1990 Rainbow "scouts" with the New England Regional Family
(NERF) informed Forest Service officials that they would be looking for
potential sites within the Green Mountain, Finger Lakes and White Mountain
national forests. In December 1990 Family members indicated that they were
interested in finding a site on the Rochester Ranger District of the Green
Mountain NF, possibly the Rob Ford Meadows where NERF held its 1988
gathering. Family members studied the Rochester District throughout the
winter, concluding in March 1991 that the Rob Ford area had inadequate
parking opportunities. Some then turned their interest towards the GMNF's
Manchester Ranger District and the area near Somerset Resevoir where NERF
held its 1989 regional gathering. Other scouts investigated sites in New
Hampshire, New York and Pennsylvania on the White Mountain, Finger Lakes
Allegheny national forests respectively. By May 1991 the scouting party
settled on Vermont and the GMNF. but they continued to vacillate between
the Rob Ford and Somerset sites. On May 26, 1991 at a Rainbow Family
council meeting the Family condensed to hold its 1991 national gathering
the Rob Ford Meadows in Granville, Vermont.
Some Family members were not happy with the Rainbow council's decision and
stated they would hold a second gathering at the Somerset site in
Vermont. As many as 75-100 Family members moved to this site and continued
to camp there until Forest Service officials succeeded in moving them from
The Rainbow Family made the final site selection independently. However,
the GMNF staff did slot to shape their decision by indicating areas that
were socially or environmentally unacceptable to the agency and/or the
public. The following guidelines have been used in the past and were
helpful during the 1991 site selection process to help steer the Family to
an area that could adequately accommodate a crowd of 10,000 to 20,000
and be acceptable to all. The site for a national Rainbow gathering
1) be located away from sensitive areas such as wilderness, Research
Natural Areas, cultural resources, R/T/E plants or animal habitats;
2) be located away from permanent and seasonal homes, recreation areas
and other places where the presence of the gathering would disrupt
3) be in an area where access can be limited to foot travel and where
disturbance by normal vehicle travel can be minimized;
4) be in a large enough block of public land to avoid intrusion onto
5) include an open area from between 10 and 20 acres to accommodate
kitchens and other gathering activities;
6) be located on an ecological land type that will resist compaction
and erosion and that is also suitable for installation of slit
7) be located near a water supply, preferably a river with fairly high
8) be within reasonable walking distance (.5 to 1.5 miles) of an area
or areas that can accommodate parking of up to several thousand
On July 7, 1991 the Rainbow council met to discuss sites for the 1992
national gathering. Discussions focused on Colorado and South Dakota, but
the council did not reach final consensus.
B. ARRIVAL PATTERNS
A few dozen Rainbow Family members were on site when the final selection was
made. Immediately afterwards, about 200-300 Family members arrived to set
up a "seed camp" and prepare the site for the big event. This number slowly
increased to about 1000 by June 23. Beginning June 28, official daily
Population estimates were made based on car counts in the designated parking
areas. The number of counted cars was multiplied by a factor of five, the
estimated average number of people per car. The graph below shows the
population pattern throughout the gathering.
Gathering participants arrived at the site via every imaginable form of
transportation: new cars, old junker cars, converted buses, Winebago
campers, motorcycles, bicycles, horses and foot travel. The ICP received a
call from a chartered bus company in Albany, NY seeking directions to the
gathering stating they had five buses scheduled for July 4th. Many Rainbows
remarked that they were seeing more hitchhikers arrive at the gathering than
usual. Some questioned the population estimates based on this.
As the Rainbow Family originally projected, parking was a major problem
throughout the gathering. Initially a Bus Village was identified with
capacity for 200 live-in vehicles and overflow capacity for 100 additional
vehicles on nearby Forest Road 50. Texas Meadows was selected as front
gate, the meadows providing parking for an estimated 1000 vehicles.
(Actually these two sites held 400 and 1350 vehicles respectively.) Based
on projections of 15,000 to 20.000 gathering participants, parking for an
additional 2000 vehicles was needed.
Forest Service and IC staff encouraged the Rainbow Family to seek parking
arrangements on private lands. The Family had intermittent discussions with
several local businesses, landowners and Middlebury College who indicated
they could make parking facilities available. However, the Family was
reluctant to make any commitments, and they remained adamantly against
paying for parking. Most of the viable private landowners became frustrated
with the Family and broke off negotiations.
The Forest Service maintained that parking was a Family responsibility.
However, the IC team strategized a contingency plan. Several forest roads
near front gate were identified that would be suitable for one-side-only
parking. On June 29 Texas Meadows parking area filled up with 1350 vehicles
on site. The IC team opened Forest Road 100 to parking. The Rainbows
managed parking along the road, cramming in over 1000 vehicles. They
eventually negotiated with a local landowner to use a field south of Forest
Road 100, the site holding a maximum of 220 vehicles. Other miscellaneous
parking throughout the area accounted for almost 300 additional vehicles.
Forest Road 100 and the private field were several miles from front gate,
which required that the Rainbow Family run a shuttle service. Shuttles also
transported many attendees from these parking areas to back gate. A variety
of vehicles and drivers were used, but the most common was either an open or
capped pick-up truck. A local resident ran a horse drawn shuttle wagon for
people accessing the gathering through back gate. On and around July 4,
would-be attendees waited for up to four hours to be shuttled from the
parking site to front gate. Shuttle vehicles were often overloaded and
presented a safety concern. One loaded shuttle tipped over on its side; no
injuries were reported. There were three instances when law enforcement
officials arrested shuttle drivers for DWI.
During the gathering the Forest Service aggressively enforced no parking
regulations. Vehicles parked illegally along forest roads accessing the
gathering were towed at the owners' expense. This was necessary to maintain
adequate traffic flows and to provide for emergency access.
Final Report - Continued
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